There have been studies done to test this theory; however each instance really depends on the type of bear. One study done in 1983 reported that when presented with a series of different odors (including seal scents, other food scents, non menstrual human blood, and used tampons) four captive polar bears elicited a strong behavioral response only to the scent of seals and the used tampons (menstrual blood) suggesting that polar bears are in fact attracted to the scent of menstruation. The study also reported that free-ranging polar bears detected and consumed food scent samples and used tampons but showed no interest in non-menstrual human blood and unused tampons.
Grizzly bear attacks have not been able to be linked to menstruation. However the responses of grizzlies to menstrual odors has not been studied experimentally so answering if they are attracted to the odor for sure has not really yet been determined. Whereas black bears of all sex and age classes that have been studied essentially ignored all menstrual odors. Furthermore, in extensive reviews all across North America there have been no instances of black bears attacking or being attracted to menstruating women or the odor of menstruation.
However, although there is not any evidence available to suggest that grizzly bears and black bears are attracted to menstruation, or any more so than they are attracted to other types of odors, certain precautions can and should still be taken to reduces the risks of attacks when it comes to women hiking, camping, etc. in areas where these creatures may be present.
Some of the precautions one can take include: using pre-moistened, unscented towlettes, and using internal tampons instead of external pads as this helps reduce odor. Do not bury any feminine products as a bear may smell buried pads or tampons and be curious and inclined to dig them up. By providing bears with a small food reward such as this, it may attract bears to other women who are menstruating. Using light scented or unscented products is the way to go. Also avoiding cosmetics, perfumes, and deodorants is also wise as using them may help attract bears.
All used tampons, pads, and towlettes should be placed and sealed in zip lock baggies for disposal and then stored somewhere where they are not available to bears. (The same as you would store food) One idea is to hang them at least ten feet above the ground and four feet from the trunk of a tree so bears have a harder time getting to them).
Disposing tampons by burning them over a campfire is one option, however if this is done it should be done properly. Keep in mind that it takes a very hot fire and a considerable amount of time for a tampon to burn completely. Any charred remains should be removed from the fire pit and then stored with other garbage, again out of a bear’s reach. It should also be noted that the burning of any kind of garbage is considered odorous and may attract bears to the campsite, so its probably best to avoid this method altogether.
Be sure to follow all food storage regulations and recommendations to avoid attracting bears as food, cooking, toiletries, food storage gear, and garbage can all attract bears and must be kept secure from them to ensure your safety.
Of course, not going camping, hiking, or anywhere a bear is sure to be lurking while you are menstruating is probably one of the safest ways to ensure that you don’t attract a bear as well.
Proper methods for storing bear attractants are as follows:
- Keep food or other possible attractants in the car (The trunk of a car or the cab of a truck works best)
- Keep food or other possible attractants in a solid camping trailer that is constructed of non-pliable material.
- Never store food or other attractants in a tent or tent trailer.
- Keep items or food in a food storage box, (some campgrounds provide these) never leave them out. Suspending the items at least ten feet in the air and four feet horizontally from the tree trunk also helps.